The newly established South Coast Flame FC will look to provide the ‘opportunity of choice’ for local talent but shouldn’t be considered a rival to the region's current NPL clubs, according to FSC chairman Eddy De Gabriele.
The club, which will be run by Football South Coast, was officially launched on Tuesday as they continue to prepare for their inaugural season in the NSW State League in 2018. FSC received approval from Football NSW last month to field a team in the state’s fourth tier men’s competition, with the hope of developing a women’s team in future years. The governing body already have their own Skills Acquisition Program (SAP) and a Association Youth League (AYL) licence.
The new South Coast entity will be FSC’s first foray into senior men’s football.
“It is very exciting,” De Gabriele said.
“Like any start up, it is exciting and frightening but we decided that we have got to provide opportunities for the large number of players in the region.
“At the moment, if you don’t get into an existing team down here then you have to go to Sydney because the clubs are limited by how many players they can have.
“The reality is why are we not providing those players [who might not make a team] with the opportunity to play against Sydney competitions. We took destiny into our own hands and created the South Coast Flame.”
South Coast will field an under 18’s, under 20’s and first grade side in the State League. While the Flame hope to be promoted to the NSW National Premier League by 2019, De Gabriele insisted the club shouldn’t be considered in competition with the Wollongong Wolves, who sit three divisions above.
“If the Wolves came to watch one of our games and wanted one of the players, do you think we are going to say no? That [pathway] is exactly what we are talking about,” he said.
“We are in the fourth division and the beauty of it is that it provides not only the Wolves or the Stingrays, but also the community to have a look at players in the State League.”
Flame coach Paul Robaard said the club will provide a new pathway for local talent which he believes has faded during the past decade.
“Once the A-League took over that pathway wasn’t as structured as what it was before. Football South Coast has identified that and are trying to fix the problem to help that pathway,” he said.
“I have a 10 year old son who I would love to have the pathway to play at he best level, and that’s the same with all the kids so they can do it without having to travel to Sydney.”
The Flame intend to stretch their reach outside of the Illawarra, with neighbouring South Coast communities also on the club’s radar.
“We have a regional responsibility to provide players down the coast also,” De Gabriele said.
“Just imagine players down the coast, if they don’t make it into the Wolves then they have to go to Sutherland. This gives them another opportunity.”